Interview: Filastine

By Morgan Short, Feb 21st, 2013 | In Nightlife



This is Filastine, an American-in-Spain electronic artist and musician playing at Temple Bar on Friday night.

This vid is as good a place to start as any.



Music is re-purposed noise and politics. Nomad beats and found sounds wrapped in shuddering and dirgey poly-rhythms and steps (maybe even that step they call "dub"), constructive yet antagonistic, affected and subversive. Powerful, politicized electronic music tailored to solve our post-something times.

More of his stuff: Last year he did a project with NPR, who brought him over to a junk yard in Austin, Texas, to make music using trash and found objects. Here's "Dance of the Garbagemen". He uses a shopping trolley as a drum kit. That's one of his things.

Lots of crappy crap to do this weekend, in my opinion you should slot this into your business schedule. Good stuff, straight up.

Visit the source at Filastine's webpage -- writings on his wackadoo anarchist travels, more music, other detritus.

****

SmartBeijing.com: So you just got into Beijing today. How is the traveling going. I understand from your blog that you've gone from Singapore to Hong Kong to Beijing -- what are you're impressions of hitting three Asia mega cities in such a short amount of time?


Filastine: I wrote something about it, feel free to pull a quote.

[Ed's note: Hmm... okay. I like this one.]

I’m staying in a low-rent industrial district of Kwuen Tung [Hong Kong]. Musicians and artists have migrated here in their usual quest for cheap raw space. The government has a different plan to “energize” the neighborhood. I write these words in building literally trembling from the excavation of a hole where they will build a new condo tower across the street. The billboards around the construction crater attract buyers with terms like “dynamic community”. Ironic, that’s exactly what they are here to destroy. It’s the same script I’ve seen everywhere from Brooklyn to Poble Nou, the difference here is geography. Hong Kong is just tiny city-state, get pushed to far to the periphery and you end up in mainland China.

***

In summary, both aspire to be miniature police states. Fortunately only one succeeded, Hong Kong retains a strong character.

Comparing cities is a hobby, like this...

SmBj: What are you first impressions of Beijing and China? What expectations did you have coming here?

Filastine: I haven't been in Beijing long enough to form a strong opinion, but first impression is that it's more spacious, quieter, and "user-friendly" than expected.

SmBj: "Ecological friction" and environmental violence seems to be pervasive themes in your project(s). Beijing must seem a bit daunting... the massive air pollution here has been all over the international news for the past few weeks...

Filastine: Beijing seems like a fucking eco-paradise after where I just spent the last few days. I can probably claim to have seen the ugliest parts of China, the brutal factory-scapes around Shenzhen and the electronic-waste scavenging around Guiyu...

SmBj: I've read in previous interviews you find musical inspiration by meeting people are experiencing difference musics while on tour. Met anyone particularly interesting on this tour? Met anyone that will influence your future music?

Filastine: In the last few weeks I've played everything from a psy-trance outdoor festival to a punk-noise gig. I always end up sharing a meal or a talk with fellow artists -- there is something to learn from any musician, to know their different perspective on how to organize sound.

SmBj: What's the last good conversation you had and what was it about?

Filastine: Talking with Ferry in Hong Kong and talking about the skyline with a local. For her it is completely normal to see a skyline full of video walls and sophisticated LED advertising. I had to tell her that even in other big cities, New York, for example, you can't decorate each building with a lighting show -- it would be considered too tacky or visually intrusive. And the idea of making buildings into vertical streets, and most of the population living in towers, that these are all ultra-modern ideas.

We were talking about how the entire ecosystem of human living is an invention of the last fifty years, but for young people it is already a "natural" default landscape.



SmBj: What's catching your attention in the media these days? Books? Movies? Art? Television?

Filastine: Too much to think about, I'll skip these except recent favorite books: You Are Not a Gadget (on relationship of humans to our technology), Planet of the Slums (the title says it all), The Diamond Age (proto-steampunk sci-fi set in China/HK).

SmBj: Your latest record Loot features an Indonesian vocalist. Maybe you could take a few steps back a bit and explain how you forged a relationship with that country and how you came to be doing music there.

Filastine: A few years back someone introduced me to Nova, rapper from Indonesia, as a potential collaborator. We share some musical taste and both aren't afraid to mix politics with our art, so a collaboration began. With the lyrics in her languages, and taking more influence form the pentatonic scales common to Asian music, audiences there have responded well.

SmBj: Whats the music like in Indonesia? What are the kids into?

Filastine: Indonesia is emerging from under the rock of nearly four decades of authoritarianism. The population is skewed young and there is a strong underground scene developing, mostly indie-oriented, but open to electronic music too. Let's be clear: although there is a growing indie scene, 99% of the music market there is exactly like China -- syrupy love ballads or manufactured boy bands.

SmBj: I understand that at a recent show there you were banned from performing Gendjer-Gendjer. What's the story with that. Is it a common situation there that local artists are going up against censorship?


Filastine: Censorship isn't so common now, what happened to us was an isolated incident by some leftover right-wing thugs. The clever people actually run the country (and the world) know that censorship isn't really needed anymore, it's more effective to distract us with consumer dreams and bury us in low-quality commercial culture. The few remaining dissident voices are lost in the periphery.


Filastine - Gendjer2

SmBj: You're based in Spain and were there in 2012 -- a pretty tumultuous year for the country to say the least. How are you feeling for the future of Spain -- hope, fear, positivity, dejection, any of those?

Filastine: As everybody knows, Spain is now a financial ruin. But a crisis is the only possible way to making a fundamental change in a society, for instance, away from consumerism and towards sustainability. Everybody in Spain now pays closer attention to politics, and talks about economic justice or corruption. It's a rare opportunity, I feel lucky to be living there and contributing to the conversation.


Filastine Live at Barcelona Acció Musical, £00T Tour 2012

SmBj: What sort of set up are you bringing to Beijing? As an aesthetic are you purposefully eschewing traditional electronic hardware?

Filastine: It's all about maximizing what can fit in the 35kg I can drag around the world, so most hardware is just too heavy. I build or modify a lot of my own gadgets. For the performance here I brought a heap of triggers and controllers, a few percussion instruments, and a video projector. I'm still hoping to find a local shopping cart, if so it will also get used as percussion instrument.

SmBj: How do you write songs?

Filastine: From a blank slate, no rules. Normally starting from a rhythm and noise, later adding the melodic bits. I find that to have original results it's better not to have a regular workflow, to always be forced to invent in a new way. Also, the songs are developed with visuals in mind, and an album is developed with a graphic design concept in mind.

SmBj: How much £00T have you sold?

Filastine: The £00T money isn't technically sold, but exchanged for other currencies. The currency exchange bureau will be open at the gig, have a look at the rates here.

Paypal hasn't appreciated this project, they seized all our cash and froze the accounts, accusing me of money laundering or counterfeiting, they couldn't really decide which it is that I'm doing.

***

Filastine performs at Temple on Friday night. Event details here.

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